Documentary filmmaker Lee Hirsch doesn’t provide many answers in “Bully,” but he does provide a reference point that parents, kids and educators can use to start talking about the issue without focusing on placing blame.
Hirsch tackles the touchy issue of bullying by showing its impact on the lives of a few kids who are being bullied and two sets of parents who lost their kids to suicide after years of being bullied.
“Bully” is filled with tragedy and sadness and while Hirsch offers a bit of hope at the end the overall mood of the movie is pretty depressing. Part of the reason for this is that there is no clear solution for how to stop bullying. Parents and their kids can’t depend on teachers or administrators for help and the kids themselves aren’t getting support from their fellow classmates.
Towards the end of the movie it appears a movement to stop bullying in schools is gaining momentum as parents band together to empower kids to take an active role in curtailing bullying. Since targets of bullying are usually different in some way from their peers then kids can have a tremendous effect on stopping bullying by standing up for the victim.
It’s hard not to wonder what would happen if two or three kids intervened between a bully and his target. If they just stood in a line, united against the attacker it might send a message that the behavior isn’t going to be tolerated. It certainly seems to work in the movies and at least the kid who is getting bullied wouldn’t feel so alone.
Suicide in response to bullying has been an unfortunate outcome in certain cases and in Hirsch’s documentary it seems the kids who took their own lives just felt like there was no other option. “Bully” is one-sided and Hirsch does not present the viewpoints of parents of bullies, which is unfortunate because it would be interesting to see what those parents have to say. The only opinion we hear about the parents of bullies is from one mother who says she tried to get a parent engaged and just could not get them to cooperate.
Until all schools adopt zero-tolerance policies regarding bullying it will be up to parents and kids to work together to stop bullying in schools. If there is one clear message from “Bully” its that change has to start with individuals.
“Bully” is rated PG-13 and opens in San Diego on April 13.